Montag is a fireman – but not in the sense we know. He lives in a dystopian world where books have been banned and knowledge is dangerous. Firemen, once protectors, are now charged with the destruction of books and the repression of knowledge. But one night, after his wife attempts suicide, he begins to change his mind about his occupation, and begins to see the real truth about the society he lives in. In the space of only a couple of days, his entire life changes…
Being a shorter story (about 200 pages) the plot is linear, and not too complicated. We see through Montag’s eyes in a close third-person point of view,
The world within Fahrenheit 451 is conveyed really well. As the book was originally written in 1953, the imagined future is from a historical perspective. Though our modern technology is a lot different, the central idea of television having replaced books, and being the central way people get their entertainment (and so are exposed to easily-controlled ideas) is still a current concern – it’s not the television anymore, it’s the internet and social media. Though some technological advances are imagined in the story, it still feels very human and real.
Montag is the central character, and so we see all the other characters through him. Some characters are more real than others, and that to me is done purposefully. For instance, Mildred, Montag’s wife, seems like a very empty character, but she’s the central representation of what people are supposed to be like in this society. She lives her life for the fictional characters that appear on her “parlor walls” – an advanced idea of television. It’s clear there’s a lot of misery underneath because we see her attempt to end her own life. The high suicide rate within the population is mentioned elsewhere in the story as well. People are happy, but only on the surface.
Obviously, there are strong images of fire in the novel, but what the fire represents changes. At the start of the novel it is a purely destructive force, but towards the end it becomes a welcoming, warming force. I think the book is also about the nature of happiness – what should seem like perfect happiness isn’t – it actually results in misery. Books are banned because they represent knowledge, which is seen as dangerous. There is an idea represented in the novel that the ideas in books, in universities, and in other forms of the arts, anything that makes people think, makes them question those in power and therefore they aren’t controllable. The government in this society has provided everything needed to make the population happy while keeping them in ignorance. Knowledge makes you question, which in turn makes you unhappy. It’s an interesting concept that has made me think.
I liked the themes and the writing in the book. The way Ray Bradbury uses language can make the book hard to read in places, but if you take your time with it, and really imagine what he’s describing, you can grasp and see some really abstract ideas. I liked the
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars